Giants in ancient Egypt: physical evidence of their existence

Above: Funerary buildings of Hierakonpolis. Bottom: Burial site (left) and cemetery map (right). Courtesy of Google Earth and " Odyssey, Adventures in Archeology "

In the first part of this research on giants, inspired by the report of the finding of a supposed ‘giant’ pharaoh who reached a height 13 centimeters higher than the average of ancient Egypt, Hugh Newman brings to light evidence of the most important giants of Egypt in the historical record. Here we can see some more credible physical evidence pointing to the existence in ancient times of Egyptians much higher than average.

A giant king with more than 2.40 meters high

King Khasekhemui (also spelled Khasekhemwy and Khasekhem, ca. 2690 BC) was the last pharaoh of the Second Dynasty of ancient Egypt, based in Abydos, and participated in the construction of Hieracómpolis, the predynastic capital. This is the same place where the giant knife mentioned in the first part of this article was discovered. He was buried in the necropolis of Umm el-Qa’ab in what has been described in the past as the oldest stone structure in Egypt.
The large limestone tomb was by no means elaborate, and when Professor Robert Temple investigated the site in 2001 he was amazed to see how primitive the quality of its construction was. Especially in comparison with the step pyramid of Zoser in Saqqara, which has been dated at the beginning of Dynasty III, a few years later. It is also believed that Zoser would have ‘buried’ Khasekhemui in this place before moving north to the Saqqara area.

Khasekhemui’s skeleton was never found, suggesting that his grave was sacked long before the excavations. This pharaoh of the Dynasty II is unique in Egyptian history for appearing the symbols of both Horus and Seth in his serekh . Some Egyptologists believe that this was done in an attempt to unify the two factions, although after the death of Pharaoh Seth he was permanently removed from the serekh. Khasekhemui was the oldest known Egyptian king who built statues of himself.

But the most amazing thing about this pharaoh is the fact that he was a kind of giant. Flinders Petrie, who was the first to excavate the site, found evidence of the third century BC. C. according to which the pharaoh measured “… 5 cubits and 3 spans high, which would be about 8 English feet (2.44 meters), if you were using the short elbow of 17.4 inches.” In the most recent Manetón’s translation we can read that: “… it measured five cubits and three palms (eight and a half feet) high” . It is believed that Manetho would have been an Egyptian priest of Sebennytus who lived during the Ptolemaic era at the beginning of the 3rd century BC. C. and wrote about this giant in his Aegyptiaca (Αἰγυπτιακων), or History of Egypt, a book written at the request of Ptolemy II Philadelphus.

However, if we use the ‘real elbow’ its height increases to 14 feet and 7 inches (4.45 meters). Considering that he was a ‘king’ perhaps we should consider the ‘Real’ elbow as a possibility, although this type of stature is completely outside the normal range of the human being, despite being tempting and correlated with other documents. The more conservative range of height from 8 feet to 8 feet 6 inches (2.44-2.6 meters) seems no doubt much more likely. There is a statue of this pharaoh exhibited in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, but it does not give details of its height.

Khasekhemui statue made of limestone and exposed in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Photography: Hugh Newman.

Pharaoh Khasekhemui would have reigned for 48 years, unifying Upper and Lower Egypt during his reign. Perhaps he was feared, since a king of this stature must have been very influential, standing out among his contemporaries and his enemies. It is also important to note that the oldest inscriptional evidence of an Egyptian king in the Lebanese settlement of Byblos belonged to the reign of Khasekhemui.